Burro is an outdoor company dedicated to the spirit of misadventure.
The seed of this company was formed deep in the early days of the pandemic. With our medical careers on hold, Ramon and I started brainstorming a better pair of all around river and trail shorts. It was something we cared a lot about, and immediately bonded over in medical school, skipping out on the first day of lectures to go explore the panthertown watering hole. During our clinical years, our house mates, the boys of the Lewis Mountain Athletic Club, would head out to the woods to go for a swim in a local watering hole before heading out to the corner and randomly streaking the lawn with strangers at 2am or heading to bed to wake up at 4am to pre round on surgery patients.
After finishing up a call shift, it was expected that you wouldn’t go home to sleep but to get a pair of shorts and deliriously hop in the car for an impromptu trip to Virginia Beach. This spirit of impromptu adventures, the lack of planning, the idea of getting out of the house and on to adventure as if our lives depended on it persisted. We’d squeeze every minute out of a break, failing tests to make a flight, and race to wake up first for a day of unplanned chaos, stealing dinghy boats and accidentally poisoning each other with sun, tequila, or coffee. And we would invent scores of characters to enliven these moments. When the weather turned cold, we’d go to the mountains with the same chaotic energy, even if we lacked the proper skills or gear. Getting someone to ski just beyond their comfort zone was a requirement, and we embraced the energy of the enthusiastic beginner. Through these trips, whether they were at the sea or on a summit or on a random stretch of highway between Houston and Charlottesville with a waterfall was a pair of shorts that was always at the ready for adventure. Ramon and I were obsessive about our Patagonia baggies, having purchased matching pairs during the first few weeks of medical school. These were trusty travel companions, and we convinced all of our housemates to get them as well. They were standard issue gear for adventure. So, cooped up in the house during the Pandemic, Ramon and I started about ways that we could improve our favorite shorts and actually make them better. Ramon and I bought a bunch of random fabric, and then Ramon bought a sewing machine. We enlisted in the help of the LMAC faithful to help find and cut a pattern that we could put together.
They were totally see through. We only noticed their total see thoroughness while on an epic hike on Memorial Day Weekend in the St. Mary’s Wilderness. We thought it was hilarious. We soon decamped to Cashiers North Carolina where we took advantage of the natural rainforest to test thick nylon materials for a potential boat tote bag.
When we got back to Charlottesville, Casey and I were brainstorming business ideas for their entrepreneurship class and the topic turned to the shorts that Ramon and I had been bouncing around. We already had a pretty good idea of what kind of fabric we would need, and we set about prototyping the various features of the shorts we would want to make. The shorts were heavily inspired by the Patagonia baggies, North Face, and Birddogs that we had collected previously.
As Casey and I experimented with various features and styles, we talked to a lot of people and realized that shorts were an often overlooked piece of clothing but one that people felt passionate about. As we looked through the existing catalog of shorts we realized a couple things, no one was doing outdoor shorts quite right. Brands like Patagonia had refused to update their materials and structures to something more modern and comfortable. Brands like Nike, Lululemon, and Birddogs didn't make shorts with any kind of ruggedness. On top of this, we noticed that more and more brands were making minimalist clothing in simple earth tones. We missed the bright colors of vintage outdoor wear, the easy to spot color on the mountain.
Prototyping our shorts in Charlottesville, Casey and I had a wild number of miscues and mistakes, which introduced a level of chaos into our design which was useful. Ira would make things different than we had intended, and we’d come to realize some important design question or feature as a result. The natural chaos of trying to design clothes and do it in another language with a dress maker was very on brand before we even really had a brand.
Speaking of which, while we initially were learning towards the idea of calling our company “LMAC” or the Lewis Mountain Adventure Club, Ramon pointed out that the name lacked universality. When reflecting on the interviews that Casey and I had done and the adventures I had with Ramon, the name Burro came to me. It was a paradoxical kind of word, at once quixotic and somewhat nostalgic for the American southwest during the gold rush as well as parody being the Spanish word for ass. As I learned more about the burro, it seemed more and more obvious that it was the embodiment of what we want to be as an outdoor company. Rugged, intelligently made, and not likely to take ourselves too seriously. So much of what we had observed in the outdoor world seemed overly dour. From ultra competitive clearly “more technical than you” to “more environmentally pure and grungier and holier than thou”, so much of the outdoor world seems to be caught up on itself rather than the moment. Looking more broadly, a lot of what we were seeing in the outdoor influencer world was the same. Tik Tok and IG are literally destroying national parks with people seeking the “perfect picture.” I think Burro stands in stark contrast to this movement. It hilariously points towards the misadventure, the people who don’t necessarily get it right, the people who aren’t pretending, the people who are genuine, good or bad.
Yes, we make rad shorts and jackets. We want to make more of these things, more articles of rugged gear that stands up to a lot of abuse, tripping in the woods in the dark when you got lost and forgot a headlamp, falling out of a tree when trying to sneak up on some friends, getting wind whipped on a desert road when your truck runs out of gas halfway back from the ski mountain, but mostly we want to build a movement around people letting go a little bit, embracing a tough moment (whether that be on the trail or in the the hospital or in a tough work position), and finding the fun in those things. The world is sad enough as it is, but golden moments of happiness and laughter exist everywhere. Our job is to help people find it.